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On the return leg from a recent trip to India, I routed myself through Beijing, on Air China, to Montreal as my final destination. Given that I completed this Air China business class trip just before New Years in 2019, it’s now surreal to think that it might have been the day Dr. Li Wenliang was trying to alert authorities in Wuhan about the deadly Coronavirus. Unfortunately, he contracted the virus himself while working at Wuhan Central hospital and lost that battle on Feb 7, 2020 🙁 .
What makes the sequence of events surreal for me today is that I too was not feeling my best on my Air China flight from Beijing to Montreal, and ended up throwing up three times during the 13 hour flight. I can confirm that my health condition was NOT a result of any virus or food and services of Air China. In fact the real heroes of my story were the Air China staff who recognized my discomfort during the flight and went above and beyond to make me feel welcome and comfortable.
Air China Business Class 787-9 Beijing to Montreal
Flight: CA 879
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Duration: 13hr 5min
My return leg was booked on Air China from DEL-PEK-YUL, I used 75,000 AP miles + $241 CAD in taxes for this award booking. Aeroplan started imposing fuel surcharges on Air China award tickets in early 2019, but only on flights between Canada and China. Air China awards booked on Aeroplan for flights between China and US continue to be YQ free.
My connection time in Beijing was a tight hour and five minutes. Beijing international can be unpredictable with its transit formalities, and I knew I would have to run for my next flight. To my surprise, as I disembarked DEL-PEK flight, not only were Air China employees waiting to receive me, they rushed me through detours and jumped me to the front of every line possible. I made zero eye contact with other passengers in line, avoiding the stink-eye and judgement. I had made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare.
CA 879 announced priority boarding and I was on my way in no time. With a dedicated door for business class passengers, it was an easy walk into the Air China Business class cabin which has a 2-2-2 layout for a total of 30 seats. The cabin was well lit with natural light coming through the stylish 787 windows.
I had selected 12 A window seat for myself and was lucky to not have a seat mate. The load in the business class cabin was light with less than 50% seats occupied. I found Air China business class seats to be spacious and comfortable overall. Am sure if this flight was full and I had a seat mate, privacy and other ‘issues’ would have mattered. But on this flight, I had the entire section to myself, with no prospects of jumping over people (with full flat seats) to get in/out.
The seats came with a plush pillow, and amenity kit and slippers already placed by the footwell of the seat. The big windows, almost 3 of them to each seat, offered plenty of natural light and made the space look even bigger.
Middle seats of the business class cabin did seem wider and a lot roomier than the window seats.
The storage space around the seat was adequate but the placement of power outlet was slightly awkward since it was almost behind the seat and required a good amount of my flexibility to access it.
The amenity kit was a good looking L’Occitane En Provence (France based company with significant presence in Canada) pouch. Air China headphones were comfortable with noise canceling features.
I was also impressed with the handheld control for the entertainment unit, it was responsive and easy to navigate. The size of the unit was also conducive to playing pre-loaded games during the flight.
Shortly after settling in my seat, the attentive crew came around and introduced themselves individually to all the business class passengers, and took orders for pre-departure drinks. Given that I was not feeling a 100%, I opted to stick with water, the fresh towel service did help make me feel fresh and settled in.
The pillow and bedding provided were the right combination of plush and firm, and offered good head support while sleeping.
The contents of the amenity kit were fairly standard, with only the hand cream and mist from L’Occitane .
With no intention of really eating, a quick glance at the menu suggested good food options. I wish I had a chance to really indulge. The food service included full Lunch and breakfast menu along with options for snack-on-demand. Here is a quick look at the menu options;
Shortly after take off, the food serviced kicked off with another round of drinks and nuts. Which was then followed by the amuse bouche (salmon) and hot canapé (prawns).
Unfortunately, thats as far as I could get with the food service. My health got the better of me and I was in and out of the washroom throwing up every time I tried to eat anything. Again, I want to emphasize that Air China’s food or the flight itself had nothing to do with my adverse health.
Once the crew realized that I was opting out of eating and struggling, they ramped up their attention towards me by offering me fresh lime water regularly, bringing me small amounts of bread noodles every time I felt like I could eat something. The service onboard really took me by surprise, in a great way. Anecdotally, I had learnt that the service can be indifferent and impersonal on Air China, but my experience was anything but that. I felt cared for and the personal attention was remarkable. Food service aside, I only have positive things to share from my experience on Air China business class 787-9.
Other review from this trip: Cathay Pacific Business Class A350-1000, Toronto to Hong Kong